Note from BW of Brazil: Yesterday on the blog, BW of Brazil brought you news of the horrific murder of a well-respected leader in Afro-Brazilian activists circles as well as within the religious community. The tragedy and brutality of such a cold-blooded act sent shock waves through the community as once again Brazil must ask itself what it will do about the blatant disregard of life, of black Brazilians in particular, and a centuries long intolerance of Afro-Brazilian religions. Below activist/journalist Marcos Romão describes how he received this tragic news and his reaction.
Today I woke up, I was tired and happy. I went to the second day of the III Conferência da Cultura (Third Conference of Culture) in Niterói. 800 people got together this weekend at the traditional Liceu Nilo Peçanha (1) in my city, Niterói (2).
We were together to develop a plan for the city which embraced all who live in the city. I met artists, cultural promoters, teachers, capoeira artists, classic and street musicians, everybody, from all races and religions, cultures and ways of seeing different cultures. The diversity was total. I was happy not just for my city, I was happy for my country.
I had just come home tired, and before bed, I check my face (Facebook) and I came across the news that brought my world crashing down. I got up from the chair and sat on the couch (because) my legs went out. I had just read in Afropress (news agency) that Mãe Yá Mukumby, a follower of the Candomblé (3) religion and leader of the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) in Londrina, Paraná, was stabbed to death murdered along with her granddaughter and her 86 year old mother.
Murdered by an enraged person, neighbors reported that the reasons may have been religious intolerance, because according to reports published in Afropress the murderer, Diego Ramos Quirino, 30, was said to be an evangelical and had “the devil in him.”
Also according to the published article, “she (Mãe Yá Mukumby) was responsible for making the Candomblé respected in Londrina. “I think I did my part, yes. I dared to face the prejudice that I faced. I am a macumbeira because macumba (4) is a rhythm that one dances to the orixás,” she used to say.
We at Mamapress and the entire network of alternative media, of religions of African origin and the Movimento Negro, have for much time warned about the escalation of intolerance and religious hatred in our country.
Mãe (Mother) Mukumby Ya, could you explain to me why there is so much hate? What is happening in our country that only we see? Black peoples are being hunted in ways that even animals are not?
With my companion I reflect on a discussion that took place today at the end of the night at the meeting of culture which had went over so well and without incident, despite heated, necessary and essential arguments in the field of culture. A Mãe de Santo (5) advocating also for the construction of a temple for African religions on the “Caminho Oscar Niemeyer (Oscar Niemeyer Way)” (6), so that there was equality with temples designed for Catholics and evangelicals on the border of Niterói, a young student, distilling hatred, screamed that if we were to have this one would have to have a Rastafarian temple to smoke marijuana…
Fundamentalist evangelical groups express their racism and religious intolerance more openly, but they are in the midst of society. Brazilian society has to face up to if it wants to get to the root of this climate of fear and hatred.
Note from BW of Brazil: Below is a video featuring Mãe Yá Mukumby in which she responds to frequently asked questions about Afro-Brazilian religions that have long been persecuted and stereotyped throughout Brazil’s history. The video is in Portuguese but feel free to click on the links in “notes” section below to read more about Brazilian religions of African origin.
Mãe Yá Mukumby in the video: “Everything that you wanted to know about macumba and never had the courage to ask”
1. Liceu Nilo Peçanha is a public high school located in Niterói and belonging to the state education system of in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Source
2. Niterói is a city and municipality in the state of Rio de Janeiro, in southeast region of Brazil. It has an estimated population of 487,327 inhabitants (2010) and an area of 129.375 km (80.39 mi)², being the sixth most populous city in the state and the highest Human Development Index Rio de Janeiro’s city, and one of largest in Brazil. It is a part of the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Area. Niteroi is 14 km (8.7 mi) distant from Rio de Janeiro City, to which it is linked by the Rio-Niterói bridge and two ferry-boat services. Source
3. Candomblé is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practiced mainly in Brazil by the “povo do santo” (people of the saint). It originated in the cities of Salvador, the capital of Bahia, and Cachoeira, at the time one of the main commercial crossroads for the distribution of products and slave trade to other parts of Bahia state in Brazil. Although Candomblé is practiced primarily in Brazil, it is also practiced in other countries in the Americas, including Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama; and in Europe in Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The religion is based in the anima (soul) of the natural environment, and is therefore a kind of Animism. It was developed in Brazil with the knowledge of African Priests who were enslaved and brought to Brazil, together with their mythology, their culture and language, between 1549 and 1888. Source
4. Macumba is a word of African (Bantu) origins. Macumbeira refers to a person that practices Macumba. Various explanations of its meaning include “a musical instrument”, the name of a Central African deity, and simply “magic”. It was the name used for all Bantu religious practices mainly in Bahia Afro-Brazilian in the 19th century. In the 20th century, these practices re-aligned themselves into what are now called Umbanda, Quimbanda and Omoloko. The term “macumba” became common in some parts of Brazil and it is used by most people as a pejorative meaning “witchcraft”. The word “macumba” is frequently used in Brazil to refer to any ritual or religion of African origin (as slang), and although its use by non-practitioners remains largely pejorative in intent (referring to all sorts of religious (or otherwise) superstitions and luck-related rituals and beliefs), and is considered offensive, its use among actual practitioners is not viewed negatively. In Brazil one can find expressions such as “chuta que é macumba!” (“kick it, for it be witchcraft!”) to show disagreement with bad luck. Source
5. A Mãe-de-santo is a priestess of Umbanda, Candomblé and Quimbanda, the Afro-Brazilian religions. In Portuguese those words transtate as “mother of [the] saint[s]”, which is an improper translation from the Yoruba language word iyalorishá, a title given to priest women in African religions. Iyá means mother, and the contraction l’Orishá means “of Orishá“. As a product of the syncretism, the word Orishá (elevated or ancestral spirit) was improperly translated into Portuguese as saint. The priestesses mães-de-santo are more venerated in African-Brazilian religions than the male priests, the pais-de-santo. In the Afro-Brazilian religions the priests are the owners of the tradition, knowledge and culture and the ones responsible to pass it on to the new generations because there are no sacred written books. Source
6. The Caminho Oscar Niemeyer (or Oscar Niemeyer Way) is a set of municipal cultural facilities of great architectural value designed by the great architect Oscar Niemeyer in the coastal districts in the city of Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. The complex extends for 11 km in length along the edge of the city, from downtown to Zona Zul from Aterro da Praia Grande (downtown) to the neighborhood of Charitas. Source